Retired officer, Jean-Paul Mahuault looks back on these Legionaries a little particular, these EVDGs who did not necessarily choose to make a career in the French army but who, during a war, we choose to fight alongside the French. Out of a taste for adventure, against a common enemy or for a certain idea of France ... The motivations are complex and multiple. The author reconsiders their engagement during the war of 1870 and the last two world conflicts: 14-18 and 39-45.
EVDG at the Foreign Legion
Created under Louis-Philippe, but heir to the many foreign regiments which have been fighting for France since the Ancien Régime, the Foreign Legion will for the first time be deployed in France during the Franco-Prussian conflict of 1870 / 1871. It is also during this disastrous conflict of the Second Empire that appear the EVDG, the Volunteers for the Duration of the War. As their name suggests, these men are foreigners who volunteer to fight alongside the French during a war. The motivations of these men are diverse and varied. In 1870 the Legion saw an influx of Spaniards, Austrians, Italians, Wallachians, Poles, Swiss, Serbs, Irish ... And even Germans who wanted to fight Prussian hegemony! In order not to have to fight their compatriots directly, they are sent to North Africa. Only Belgians are prohibited, because Leopold II is keen on his neutrality vis-à-vis the Prussian neighbor. Foreign officers even come to serve France like the future King Peter I of Serbia!
It is the beginning of a long tradition of foreign nationals taking up arms to satisfy a taste for adventure and / or defend a France they love, whatever the political position of their country of origin. Jean-Paul Mahuault looks back on this atypical commitment during the last three conflicts that the metropolis has known: 1870-71, 1914-18 and 1939-45.
The play on words is easy, but the works on the Legion are legion ... Indeed, this elite unit, atypical and exotic, does not cease to stir up fantasies from which can be an editorial over-representation. However, the particular study of EVDG stands out a bit! These men who enlist in the Legion do not necessarily do so to start a military career, they only enlist for a conflict and their motivations are all the more varied: taste for adventure, Francophilia, willpower. fierce to stand up to Germany, feeling of debt to France ... Thus we find within the EVDG some famous names like the Garibaldi, Blaise Cendrars or even the American poet Alan Seeger who left life in the Sum in 1916 ...
Jean-Paul Mahuault, a retired officer who served in the Foreign Legion, offers us a book of about 300 pages, very accessible, and embellished with a few photos covering the three conflicts. Alternating narration and quotes, the story is fluid and pleasant to read. In the end, a work that stands out in the long bibliography of the Legion, a work that will not only interest those passionate about military history, a work that testifies to the commitment of these foreigners to the service of France and which asks us about the aura that our country had (what?) with its European neighbors.
MAHUAULT Jean-Paul, E.V.D.G. Engaged Volunteers for the Duration of the War at the Foreign Legion. 1870-71, 1914-18, 1939-45, Éditions Grancher, 2013.